Sitting at Odd Society’s long black bar, it’s not hard to be impressed—even if a little surprised—that this polished operation has popped up at 1725 Powell Street (604-716-6745).
Of course, it’s not quite that simple.
Lost in the hubbub surrounding the close of comments for the provincial government’s liquor review is the reality that quiet but measured liberalization of some laws has been well under way for some time now.
No better proof can be found than the unveiling of Vancouver’s newest small batch distiller, which has opened the doors to its impressive tasting room in East Van.
An early start
When still in high school, co-founder and distiller Gordon Glanz was a keen home winemaker, an interest which, he says, was a short but logical step to home distilling! It was only a matter of time before he looked further afield, eventually working in a winery in Germany for a year. There, naturally, beyond the grape harvest and fermenting was a chance to learn how to make Schnapps—and more.
Watching the rise in interest in craft distilling south of the line (which has seen six-fold growth to some 300 micro-distilleries in the last 10 years, Glanz and his wife Miriam decided felt the time was ripe to plan for a craft distillery in Vancouver.
Off to the Oracle
Gordon left town to learn further the intricacies of distilling in (well, where else?) but Scotland, where Edinburgh’s Heriot Watt University helps shape tomorrow’s distillers. He graduated with an MSc. And got to play in more than a few hallowed haunts along the way. He also met up with Joshua Beach, now Odd Society production manager and distiller, who has an invaluable background in breweries and equipment.
As he walks us through the business end of the operation, with its gleaming 350 litre Holstein copper stills and 15-foot vodka column, Glanz says he reckons the arrival of Odd Society is, “A culmination of at least five years of work and planning—with no shortage of loops and hoops to be jumped through.”
Putting the BC in BC Craft Distilling
BC’s newly designated “Craft Distillery” license, he explains, comes with certain tax breaks. But there are strict requirements attached to it:
“You have to use 100 percent BC agricultural products—we use malted barley from Prince George. You have to ferment on site. You have to distill traditionally—and you can’t use neutral grain spirit.”
Odd Society is the first (though by no means the last) Craft Distiller to open in the city under the recently introduced new rules. Right now you can drop by for a distillery visit to check things out, (Thurs-Sun 1-7 p.m.). Grab a seat at the bar for a taste of the distillery’s very smooth, gently viscose and reasonably priced East Van Vodka (with clever label art by Shwa Keirsted)—and hopefully buy a bottle or two before you leave. Full tours are offered Fri-Sun at 4 p.m.).
Soon, an Odd Society Lounge
In a few months or so, Glanz suggests, you’ll also be able to drop by what will by then have morphed into a cocktail lounge to taste some concoctions (created by Homer Street Café’s Matt Martin) again with ingredients all produced on site. You can be sure, in there somewhere will be a Creme de Cassis, modeled on a family recipe courtesy of French Table restaurant owner Hervé Martin. And even if you can’t make it down for a taste, you can already find East Van Vodka on quite a few private store shelves.
Look for Gin and an un-aged and unadulterated barley spirit, Mongrel, shortly. And, much later, whisky.